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Climate Research

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CR 12:215-222 (1999)  -  doi:10.3354/cr012215

Drought as an analogue climate change scenario for prediction of potential impacts on Malawi's wildlife habitats

Francis X. Mkanda*

Department of National Parks and Wildlife, PO Box 30131, Lilongwe 3, Malawi

ABSTRACT: This study compares precipitation and temperature from recent drought episodes with general circulation model outputs to examine the likely effects of climate change on herbaceous layer productivity, ground cover, and forage utilization in Malawi's Lengwe National Park. There are no differences in precipitation distribution and temperature during the drought episodes and climate change scenarios. The implication is that deteriorating habitat conditions such as those observed during the drought incidents might occur under climate change. Herbacious layer productivity was 2 to 6 times lower than in a normal year; ground cover was reduced to 22-32%; and the number of intensely browsed plants increased significantly (chi-square = 10.5, p = 0.01) as the drought progressed. Consequently, it is unlikely that the degraded habitat would support large mammal populations in Lengwe specifically, or in Malawi in general.

KEY WORDS: Precipitation · Temperature · Productivity · Ground cover · Browse utilisation

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